WORK-LIFE BALANCE / OCT. 31, 2015
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7 Vital Skills That Will Help You Thrive in Life

A Quora thread invited users to submit their thoughts on the most valuable skills a person can have in life. The overwhelming majority of answers revealed that the most important skills a person should have are not ‘taught’ in school: self-discipline, presence of mind, creativity, empathy, the ability to delay gratification, adaptability among others. But these are only scratching the surface when it comes to surviving and thriving in the big bad world. Here are seven acquire-or-be-damned skills that will help you thrive in life.

See Also: 5 Things That Make Us Succeed

1. Conflict Management

One of the main obstacles to effective conflict management is listening with the intent of responding, rather than seeking to truly understand the point of view of the other person (active listening). We often allow our preconceived ideas about the other person to influence our position, rather than responding to points that have been made. It is usually through hard experience that conflict management skills are learned. Learning how to argue effectively is a vital skill that, if learned early enough, would facilitate progress through intellectual means rather than through manipulation and coercion.

2. Decision Making

As adults, the decisions we make have real consequences; some of those consequences may affect only ourselves, whereas others may have wide ranging impacts. Making the right decisions can often mean the difference between success and failure. As adults, we need to have the ability to think effectively so we can make the right choices, the right decisions. The education we receive at school is pragmatic: we are taught in ways that will maximise our ability to achieve on a set curriculum and not how to hypothesize, evaluate options and extrapolate so we can form conclusions. As adults we usually stumble upon or are introduced to methods of thinking that help us make better decisions; we learn to think beyond the linear framework of our youth and embrace a more circular vision that encourages us to think beyond what we see in front of us and accommodate a broader range of variables.

3. Organizational Skills

Being disorganised will get you nowhere, fast. Those who are successful have developed processes and systems to help them keep on top of their schedules and activities. These systems help them to quickly find the information they need to support their work. If you’re disorganized, much of your time will be spent on dealing with the usual: looking for files, misplaced emails etc. By mastering the art of organization, your productivity will be instantly maximised.

4. Selling

For some people, selling conjures up images of unctuous, snake-oil salesmen trying to sell you a shiny new car and an avalanche of debt, even though the only reason you went into their dealership in the first place was to use the facilities. These types of salesmen use people to their own advantage; they inspire fear not trust and are not to be confused with professional salesmen who are focussed primarily on providing customers with what they need; they could not be more different from the aforementioned snake oil merchants.

The skill of selling is such a valuable one, particularly when looked at as a skilful form of persuasion that requires an ability to appeal to hearts and minds. With selling skills you can convince others of the merits of an idea or proposal; you can encourage others to act in their best interests through reason and logic; you can overcome objections and bring others over to your point of view. Selling skills are essential in any area of work, and you will learn much more about how to communicate by working in a sales environment than anywhere else. It can help you understand people better, and yourselves too. You also learn how to deal with rejection; self-discipline and persistence.

5. Time Management

Time management is featured on pretty much every ‘how to be successful’ list, and for a good reason. We humans are hard-wired to focus on anything that seemingly demands an immediate response: mobile phones ringing, emails popping into our inbox, alert on phones - all of which are productivity thieves. Unfortunately time management classes are usually only offered to high flying execs in blue-chip companies. Yet learning how to use time effectively is a vital skill that should be learned as early as possible – perhaps our issues around increasing productivity would disappear if that were the case. Often we learn too late that the key to effective use of time is to suppress the trivial and focus on the important.

6. Coping With Failure

Failure affects us all, and an ability to bounce back from failure is an invaluable skill. It’s also an incontrovertible truth that we learn from failure and, as such, we should embrace it. As Heidi Grant Halvorson writes in 99U, when we adopt a “be good” mindset that seeks to remove the possibility of failure, we also suppress our creativity because we do not engage in “exploratory thinking” which fosters “new knowledge and innovation”. Grant argues that a mindset that focuses on the avoidance of failure will lead to problems when confronted with situations that are either unfamiliar or difficult, and this in turn will lead to “anxiety and frustration” because we have learned to associate mistakes with a lack of ability. Instead, she advocates a “get better” mentality which she describes as being “bullet proof”. A “get better” mentality places the focus on learning and mastery, with mistakes being part of that process. As such, those with this mentality remain motivated in spite of any setbacks they might experience.

Being able to cope with failure requires an acknowledgment that “ability develops”, ie, it’s a process that will invariably involve failure. It means not hiding mistakes or running from them, but seeking help to improve. And it requires a commitment to continuous improvement.

7. Likeability

Likeability matters; don’t believe anyone who says it doesn’t. You can have no money, be a bit dim and, physically nothing like Angelina Jolie but still have people hanging onto your every word – if you’re likeable. The good news is that likeability can be developed as described in this post. According to Quora user Michael Graham, likeable people have a unique ability to “please people without kissing ass”. They inspire trust. They’re the ones who win juicy new accounts because of their exceptional interpersonal skills; they’re the ones that can be trusted to lift morale when spirits are low; and they’re the ones that get the promotions.

See Also: 5 Habits of Extremely Likeable People

There are several ‘life skills’ that are useful and important, but not vital to your success in life: how to change a car tyre, program a web application, how to drive. Other life skills such as the ‘three Rs: reading, writing and ‘arithmetic’ are indispensable and, as such, are a given. Beyond these fundamental skills there are other vital skills such as those described in this post, that will help you thrive in life.

Which life skills would you add to this list? Which life skills do you believe are the most important? Leave your comments in the comments section below.

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